Wednesday, March 09, 2011
A Cornish Maid and Sir John Betjeman
My second book for Aurora Regency - Aspen Mountain Press, A Cornish Maid was published on 5th March. I lived in Cornwall many years ago and loved it. We had a hotel, The Bodare Hotel, on Daymer Bay which is the best beach in Cornwall. Sir John Betjeman lived at the end of our drive, although he always said we lived in his garden. During the winter he would totter down to buy his gin and wine. He once knew a Dusty Miller who had given him some money so he could continue to write, so he got on well with my husband of the same name.
The two of them would vanish into the wine store for hours and sample the stock. He used to wear a tea cosy on his head and his over coat was worn half off his shoulders. My daughter, then five, asked him why this was and he answered, "It takes years of practice to wear a coat like this, my dear, and the tea-cosy makes me look Cornish."
On my birthday he gave me a signed book of his poetry - I still have it -well worn as it went to university with my daughter - he wrote "To Dusty's Wife" as he never remembered my name. He added "Fenella" when he arrived.
He never came in the summer as the lane down to both our homes was snarled with traffic from early in the morning until dusk. My husband used to go off to the cash and carry in St Austell at 7 o'clock because he couldn't get out of the drive if he went any later. He would get his breakfast there as no shops were open until nine. Coming back was fine as all the cars were heading down the lane.
I have fond memories of that beach and the freshly picked mussels we used to turn into moules a la creme for our guests. These would be served on the bar, free, in the huge pot they were cooked in.
We went back a few years ago but the hotel is now expensive flats and we couldn't go in. The beach is still as wonderful. We always visit Sir John's grave at the little St Enedoc church on the golf course overlooking the sea.